CINCINNATI -- The Ohio high school football season officially starts this week and it will be the first of what may be 15 Friday nights (counting the state finals in Columbus). This is also the 45th year the Ohio high school football playoffs will be played. From the humidity of August to the swirling snow of December, here are nine reasons why we are looking forward to high school football season.
1. Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown: The nation’s longest-running high school football event of its kind is in its 19th straight year. We simply can’t get enough of these intriguing matchups that started Wednesday with Summit Country Day against Purcell Marian at Sheakely Athletics Center.
The event includes local schools from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana as well as big-name teams from around the country.
La Salle, the reigning two-time Division II state champion, plays Sycamore at 6 p.m. Friday at Nippert Stadium. Colerain, the preseason area No. 1, plays Warren Central at 1 p.m. Saturday at Nippert in a rematch of last season’s game. The event will earn national television attention Saturday when St. Xavier plays St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) at 5 p.m. Saturday on ESPNU.
2. Is this the year for Colerain?: The Cardinals are undoubtedly the area's preseason No. 1, regardless of division.
Colerain is ranked No. 7 nationally by USA Today, No. 9 by the MaxPreps Freeman Rankings (computer) and No. 13 by the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 (editorial). The Cardinals were a 2015 state semifinalist a year ago, the first state semifinal appearance since 2006.
With several major college prospects, including cornerback Amir Riep (Ohio State), Colerain is primed for a special run if it can get through its rigorous non-conference schedule.
3. Can La Salle three-peat?: A Division II team has never won three state football titles in Ohio since the playoff system started in 1972. The Lancers won their second straight title last December becoming the first D-II program since St. Marys Memorial in 1992 and ’93 to repeat.
La Salle lost some key names including Mr. Football runner-up Jeremy Larkin, but the Lancers return plenty of talent, including 30 seniors who’ve been on both state title teams.
4. Final season for Glen Este, Amelia: Both schools will officially close out their respective football seasons this fall before joining to become West Clermont High School. West Clermont will join the Eastern Cincinnati Conference in 2017. Both schools have reunions scheduled this fall. The coaches and athletic director for West Clermont haven't been determined yet.
5. The playoff suspense: The OHSAA is using JoeEitel.com as the final computer points standings this season. The intrigue really gets going around Week 6 when teams get an understanding if they have a chance at the playoffs.
There is nothing quite like the intrigue of entering Week 10 with a playoff berth on the line. The matchups are another point of interest, especially with the return of four regions in Division I this season; fans can expect more local matchups earlier.
6. College recruiting: National Signing Day isn’t until Feb. 1, but you'd better believe college coaches are paying attention to the high school game all season through Hudl, social media and good old-fashioned visits to schools. The December college football coaching carousel adds another layer of storylines.
Watch for Colerain linebacker Kyle Bolden -- the 2015 TriStateFootball.com defensive player of the year -- and La Salle running back/safety Jarell White early this season. Both could see their stock rise. Colerain senior safety Keontae Jones could also garner more BCS offers. Fairfield junior offensive lineman Jack Carman is the area’s highest recruited player in the 2018 class.
7. Tradition: Ohio high school football can trace its origins back to 1878 when Hughes played Woodward in the earliest game on record. The Massillon versus Canton McKinley rivalry dates back to 1894. Walnut Hills played Hughes in 1895.
Last season, over 44,000 players (grades 9-12) participated in football statewide. From Cris Carter to Luke Kuechly and from Ken Griffey Jr. to Roger Staubach, there has been some incredible talent from Greater Cincinnati.
8. Marching band/student sections: High school football wouldn’t nearly have the pomp and circumstance without the musical talent of halftime shows. Take a moment to watch how closely this organization is set up the next time you catch a Friday night game. And while you are at Nippert this weekend, check out the student sections of some of the top games. It will make you appreciate the meaning of high school football.
9. Stadium scenery: The Pit (Elder), Cardinal Stadium (Colerain), Ballaban Field (St. Xavier), Lancer Stadium (La Salle), Kings High School Stadium, Marx Stadium (Walnut Hills), Dwire Field at Atrium Stadium (Mason), Firebird Stadium (Lakota West), Fairfield Stadium and Nippert Stadium. The list goes on and on. Each brings uniqueness in its style, tailgating and concession stands.
And if you are able to catch a playoff game, check out the opportunities for a neutral site. You will find out our area has a rich tradition in venues that would be difficult to be matched anywhere in Ohio.
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